In the immortal words of the Indigo Girls, the hardest to learn is the least complicated. I speak to you from the lowly, lonely place that a person is in when she has just ripped back 8 hours of garter stitch because she had 1 stitch more on the right side of the center stitch of her triangular shawl than she had on the left side of the center stitch of her triangular shawl, and she couldn’t see where the stitch was missing. And needless to say it was driving her crazy, sitting there at the girls’ basketball game last Saturday. Perhaps she was mad. But in the state of mind she was in, rip she must, and rip she did, and then she had to figure out how to make sure this never, ever, wever happened again.
This wouldn’t have happened with a fancy lace shawl pattern. (Yes I’m bitter about that.) With lace, you follow the principle of The Center Stitch, but you’re not talking about the center stitch of the whole dang shawl. You’re talking about the center stitch of each repeat. If the center stitch of the repeat is not landing in the exact center of the repeat on the row below, you’re doing it wrong and you know it. Nothing will work right, ever again in your life, if you do not figure out why that center stitch is not landing in the center, right this minute. So you fix it. It may take you a minute to figure out, but you fix it. It’s not something you discover EIGHT HOURS OF KNITTING LATER. You discover it right now.
But my shawl is not like that. It is seductively, deceptively simpler. For a very long time, you increase only on RS rows. On each RS row, you increase one stitch at each end of the row, and 1 stitch on either side of the center stitch of the shawl. You do this until you have 273 stitches on the shawl. THEN, you start increasing more on the ends. You put an increase on each end of each WS row AND on each RS row. The rows are growing crazy fast. Every once in a while you count the stitches, to make sure you have the same number on either side of the center stitch. You have a fleeting thought of using markers, but since the rows are growing from the center and from both ends at the same time, you can’t quite figure out where to put the markers, so you just say to yourself: What? Like I’m going to MISS an increase on either end? I can see immediately if I’ve missed an increase in the middle, because there will be No Hole where there should be a long line of uninterrupted holes, so the only place I could mess it up would be to skip an increase on one of the ends, and that ain’t gonna happen, because this is a bone simple thing to do: increase one stitch at each end, every row. Fool.
I know you are thinking it was rash to rip for such a small, invisible, nonstructural mistake. But the deed is done so let’s move on. How am I keeping track, now that I know that I must keep track? It’s very simple.
First I counted off the stitches that I had on each side of the center stitch at that time. I put a marker at each end of 140 stitches, on each side, leaving 4 stitches outside the markers on either side of the center stitch, and 5 stitches outside the marker at each end. Wa-de-freakin’-la!
Those 140 stitches always stay the same, trapped there between the markers, with no increases happening to them. The increases are all happening at the center and the ends, on the other side of the markers. Where I can count them, and there are manageable, observable numbers of stitches to count.
The center stitches. There should always be the same number of stitches on either side of Stitch Zero. When I get so many that it’s a lot to count, I can move a chunk of stitches to the other side of the markers.
Ditto for the stitches on the ends. Each side should have the same number of stitches on the outside of the marker at the completion of each row. When they get cumbersome to count quickly, move a chunk to the inside of the markers. (Equal chunks on each side.)
Can I get a Bless My Heart?